Let’s see if CBS lets Pelley make a difference

CBS just named Scott Pelley to take over the CBS Evening News. He has always struck me as a straigh-forward bread-and-butter journalist. He is neither a ‘personality’ nor a ‘celebrity’ like Couric. So I hope he does a good job, but the facts on the ground make it unlikely that even a better anchor could make much difference, because . . .

A reporter, reporting

Network news has been in decline for 20 years; except for the ‘at the scene’ stuff, they increasingly do ‘news by press release’. And they fill the rest of the time with touchy-feely stuff which we once called ‘filler’ in the newspaper business – as if there weren’t sufficient news on the planet to fill those terrifying 22 minutes of emptiness.

When the networks decided to end the tradition of allowing  news divisions to be ‘loss leaders’ in the late 80’s, 90’s our new masters of the universe decided news had to generate profit, things started downhill. Then came cable and the internet.

We lost something important when our news television sources fragmented and  ideology crept into the news itself, not just the opinion pages of newspapers and the magazines with specific political bents, like The Nation or National Review.

Someday Charles Osgood – another one of the pros – will retire from CBS Sunday Morning, I hope CBS continues with good choices; Harry Smith would be good – he’s another modest professional guy who never makes it ‘all about him’.

16 responses to “Let’s see if CBS lets Pelley make a difference

  1. Moe,

    I’ll quibble with the ideology creeping in. I think there always been a fair amount of it. In the days of Cronkite, the news, I think, did have a liberal coloring. I don’t however that was a conspiracy as much as the news always kind reflects where the center of population is I think. People like to say we are a center right nation, and I think that’s about right today, and I think news kind of reflects that. In the ’60 we were a center left country and the news reflected that to a large degree.

    As the country has drifted rights since the late 1960’s, I think news has kind of moved with it.


    • Bruce – I don’t disagree really, we were a more liberal country for the 30 years after WWII and of course the media would reflect who we were. And I agree that today we are somewhat more right. But what’s changed – and what bothers me – isn’t so much ideology in the news, it’s the quality of the news operations and the product they produce.

      What was important about what we had was that it was professional and civilized and they really worked stories. If one of the nets reported something, you could trust that the facts had been checked and double checked and the story fully vetted.

      Today’s cable environ (and I really mean FOX and MSNBC – I can’t find any ideology on CNBC or CNN) isn’t really news at all – it’s just partisanship as entertainment. And meanwhile, the networks are degraded and just do a terrible job.

      That’s my gripe – other than The News Hour, nobody is doing news well anymore on television..

      By the way, if Cronkite ‘leaned a little liberal’, his competition on ABC was Huntley/Brinkley Report, widely considered to be conservative. There were no cable nets of course – PBS ‘public affairs programming’ as they called it then was pretty well balanced – their biggest star was William F. Buckley’s Firing Line program.


  2. I like Harry Smith, too.

    You know who I still miss? Aaron Brown on CNN. They got rid of him to give us two hours of Anderson Cooper… which is an hour too much.


    • Oh yeah! Aaron Brown was an island of actual reporting in a sea of inanity. (my god what a cliche!). Cooper has a special talent for a certain type of story but they should never have made him an anchor.

      Yeah, Aaron Brown was great. How ’bout Ashey Banfield – only a reporter, but remember when she was banished?


  3. As often, I mostly agree with one correction. Huntley-Brinkely were on NBC. ABC was Howard K. Smith, Harry Reasoner, Frank Reynolds and others that I don’t rember.


    • I’d say you remember pretty well! I am impressed.

      Howard K. Smith – like Cronkite he came out of WWII reporting to TV. Real pioneers those guys.


  4. shortbuswonderkid

    We just saw the movie, “Good Night, and Good Luck.” It was about Television Journalism during the time of McCarthyism. It inspired me to learn a bit more about Edward R. Murrow and his concerns of what he thought the News would become. I don’t think he was too far off. Still, it would be nice to see old-school investigative journalism to come back in our side of the globe.


    • Yeah, me too. I think we can even look to George Orwell for a hint of today’s news. 1984 was extreme, but the point was not dissimilar.

      I find myself more and more going to foreign news sources because mainstream here is so lame.


  5. So you agree with Sarah Palin! Wow! Katy bar the door!


  6. I’ve always liked Couric, BUT, not on the network news. I never felt drawn in … or she couldn’t hold my attention. In recent yours, each of the 3 major networks lost their anchor … thus change. I ended up with Brian Williams.

    Here are what I see as two of the major draws to a news cast. 1) The voice & its cadence. Case in point, I have a difficult time with Wolf Blitzer. He’s respectable, but I have difficulty listening to him. On the other hand, I appreciate Bob Schieffer (CBS). 2) Now that they have our ear, do they have your eyes? (OK … I admit it … I’m partial to CNN news women)

    I’ll give Pelley a chance.


    • I think that’s a pretty good evaluation – I’m also a fan of Schieffer. NOT however of CNN women. Or FOX women. Both nets tart them up way too much. PBS is the only net that does it right – people look lilke themselves.

      That said, Wolf Blitzer makes my teeth hurt!


  7. Moe,
    Just wanted you to know that I appreciate the dialogue. We seem to have the same philosophy —> If someone takes the time to comment, take the time to respond. Many thanks!


  8. Again with the titillating talk of tarts.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s